Sunday, November 19, 2017

Expertise, the president versus congress

Since writing a post way back about the way complexity is a problem for Congress I've been happy to discover that the ideas in those aren't at all original and that these are the sort of things people write papers on.  Here's a good article on one recent paper.  I suppose I should have seen that coming.  Possibly I got the idea from somewhere initially then forgot about reading it.

But anyways, figuring out what you need to know to write legislation is hard.  It would be cool if Congress had a big budget to hire outside experts but they have to make do listening to what lobbyists tell them and trying to decide which to believe.  Of course there is on part of government that has a huge budget to hire people with specialist knowledge and which has tons of them on staff.  That is, the executive branch.

That's an angle on this whole situation I'd completely overlooked.  A president proposing legislation can use the Department of Education to draft school reform bills, use the EPA and Department of Energy to draft climate control legislation, etc.  People talk about the imperial presidency.  I expect that this is a pretty big factor in how we got that.

There's also some cause for hope here.  We got the Congressional Budget Office from Congress wanting to push back at having to rely on the White House when budgeting.  To quote Wikipedia:
Congress wanted to protect its power of the purse from the executive. The CBO was created "within the legislative branch to bolster Congress’s budgetary understanding and ability to act. Lawmakers' aim was both technical and political: Generate a source of budgetary expertise to aid in writing annual budgets and lessen the legislature’s reliance on the president's Office of Management and Budget.
 What got me thinking about this power dynamic was watching the recent floundering of Congress on their health care plans and other matters.  Partially this is an issue of leadership but part of the problem also seems to be that the executive is just not interested in the matter.  Or possibly that so many political appointments haven't been completed he's not able to.

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